By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 28, 2015
Both Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Pope Francis delivered speeches on Thursday of last week that took an odd turn of events. A section of the Pope’s official speech transcript that slammed the finance industry was gutted before the Pope delivered his address to a joint session of Congress. In the case of Yellen, evidence strongly suggests that egregiously bad event planning sabotaged her speech at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, triggering media hysteria and prognostications of how fast Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s Vice Chairman, would slide into Yellen’s seat as Chair of the Fed.
The official transcript of the Pope’s speech to Congress appears here. It contains the following passage:
“Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”
The C-Span video of the Pope’s address, available here, shows the above section was gutted from the address when the Pope spoke to Congress.
Apparently, someone did not want finance, as in Wall Street, to be slammed by the Pope. Of course, the Pope is correct — the United States and its people are now enslaved to Wall Street — with no relief in sight from the body the Pope was addressing. So out of touch is Congress with the needs of the “human person” that a Gallup poll taken last month showed just 14 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. That fact no longer needs to trouble members of Congress since “human persons” no longer elect them. They are now elected by multi-million-dollar attack ad campaigns filling the airwaves against their opponents, funded by corporations, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
What happened to Janet Yellen, the chair of the most powerful central bank in the world, was more nuanced. Yellen’s speech last Thursday evening on inflation and monetary policy had been heralded for days by the media as potentially providing clues into what the Fed might do with interest rates before year end. After the Fed had held rates steady exactly one week prior on September 17, Yellen’s upcoming talk at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on September 24 was creating major media buzz.
One would think that such a widely anticipated speech would be available in full in video form on the Internet. The official text is readily available at the Federal Reserve’s web site, but the video of the actual speech as delivered is non-functioning on the Fed’s web site (as of this morning, at least). The video is also non-functioning at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where the event was held.
Bloomberg News says this is the “full speech” on video but it is decidedly not. The video cuts off the last portion of the talk where Yellen has difficulty figuring out how the text is supposed to read. That last, long paragraph of the speech, which Yellen effectively rewrote from the lectern, with awkward pauses, can be viewed here.
If you watch the first video, it is clear that for 48 minutes, Yellen read from the official text as written, delivering a flawless presentation. She glanced up regularly at the audience, seamlessly returned to the text on the page, and even operated a remote control to show the audience a series of slides that buttressed her comments on inflation. But if you focus on the last few minutes of this video, Yellen places her hand on the lectern as if to steady herself, then touches her forehead just before the video cuts off. What is left is the final paragraph of her speech, which runs in the second video.
What Fed Chair Yellen is talking about just prior to her difficulties is enough to make anyone dizzy or provoke an anxiety attack. Yellen says:
“…continuing to hold short-term interest rates near zero well after real activity has returned to normal and headwinds have faded could encourage excessive leverage and other forms of inappropriate risk-taking that might undermine financial stability. For these reasons, the more prudent strategy is to begin tightening in a timely fashion and at a gradual pace, adjusting policy as needed in light of incoming data.”
Of course, we know clearly from the research done by the Office of Financial Research and the unprecedented felony counts handed out in May against the largest banks that it’s far too late to be wondering if “inappropriate risk-taking” could undermine financial stability. That horse kicked down the barn door long ago and is running wild.
The final words in Yellen’s speech were delivered by her as follows:
“Some slack in labor markets remains and the effects of this labor market slack and the influence [pauses and says “uhm” and begins to read ahead in the typed speech, apparently sensing that words are wrong. After reading ahead, she picks up with:] “ So some labor market, some slack remains in labor markets and the effect of this slack and the influence of lower energy prices and past dollar appreciation have been significant factors, uh, keeping inflation below our goal. But I expect that inflation will return and the influence of lower energy prices and inflation below our goal” [Those last three words are clearly wrong and Yellen stops speaking and can be seen to be reading ahead in the typed speech; she then says] “I expect this to occur as the temporary factors that are currently weighing on inflation wane, provided that economic growth continues to be strong enough to complete the return of the economy to full employment [brief pause] “and to” [Yellen stops again and continues to read ahead in the speech; then she says] “to return to full employment and long-run expectations remain well anchored.” [Now Yellen begins reading crisply again from the typed text, reading as it is written, even glancing up once at the audience and again finding her place in the typed text without pause.]
It’s not abundantly clear if Yellen was having health difficulties, if the last paragraph of the speech was typed incorrectly on her paper, or if a combination of both were at work. What is abundantly clear is that Yellen’s handlers packed her agenda that day, then put her on a darkened stage with a hot spotlight beaming down on her, no glass of water visible on the lectern to deliver an hour-long speech, and a massive spray of pollen spewing flowers directly in front of her lectern.
According to the University of Massachusetts’ Facebook page, Yellen started her day at the University in the morning with a “welcome breakfast” attended by faculty from the Economics department and graduate students. According to the Wall Street Journal, Yellen also met during the day with graduate students, visited an undergraduate class and lunched with more economics professors at the University. The speech didn’t begin until 5 p.m. so she may not have had any food since lunch. Yellen is 69 years old.
The official spokeswoman for the Fed, Michelle Smith, told the media that Yellen had “felt dehydrated at the end of a long speech under bright lights.”
Reuters’ reporters Jonathan Spicer and Ann Saphir felt compelled to bring a neurologist into the conversation and were reviewing contingency plans for Fed Vice Chairman, Stanley Fischer, to take over. The Reuters report stated:
“ ‘If you ask me, is it concerning, I think it is concerning,’ said Dr. Andrew Stemer, an assistant professor of neurology and radiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
“But he added it was hard to offer a diagnosis without lab tests, an exam or medical history: ‘I want to be cautious about speculating on things that I can’t know…I’m sure she’s getting excellent care and that her physicians are working this up.’
“Fed chairs typically do not travel with medical staff. Instead they are accompanied by a security detail and at least one public relations handler, as Yellen did in Amherst on Thursday and Friday. Security officials conducted a 20-minute sweep of the university auditorium before the event, and they were on hand as she departed later.
“Were a Fed chair to become incapacitated, the vice chair — former Bank of Israel chief Stanley Fischer — would take over the Board of Governors. Depending on how long the Fed chair was away, William Dudley, head of the New York Fed and vice chair of the Federal Open Market Committee, would temporarily chair the policy-setting committee pending a vote of the committee.
“ ‘It might be a little nerve-wracking for financial markets if that were to occur, but I think the fact that Fischer is well-known and well-respected could limit how much volatility a succession event would cause,’ said Michael Feroli, JPMorgan’s chief U.S. economist and a former Fed staffer.”
Citigroup would love nothing better than to see its former executive, Stanley Fischer, elevated to the throne. JPMorgan and the rest of Wall Street would love nothing better than to see an unrestrained Bill Dudley running the New York Fed.
What words of advice do we have for Janet Yellen? Replace your handlers.